S: This is the Life We Chose (v.I)
FC: This is the Life We Chose Volume I
1: A 5 Month Cross Country Road Trip? The Idea was an evolutionary process. It started in San Francisco. We were on our way up to Tahoe for a ski vacation with Monica's family. We had stopped for a night in San Fran and were talking over a Morton's steak and realized that although neither of us had jobs that required us to be in an office, work particular hours or be at home, we lived our life as if we did. What good is that? Why not maximize our freedom? Why not live, for a short time somewhere else? The original idea was to rent our house and live in S.F. for 3 months. While we were in Tahoe, Clark fell in love with skiing. So the idea changed to include a chunk of time in Tahoe, with free rent while we stayed at my grandfather's cabin. Our minds were plotting and scheming. Making plans and looking at the calendar. Clark had several business obligations around the country throughout the beginning of the year and we already knew he was going to have to fly to and from Chicago, Indiana, and Washington DC. Then a flash, a brilliant idea... Let's drive across the country, spend time with family and friends, and do business from the road. We had the idea in December and by January 15th had our house rented. We packed up and were on the road February 7th. Living...What a Great Adventure
2: It's been a crazy week. A week ago yesterday I returned from a trip to Washington to finish packing up the house. Monday we gave the keys to our tenants, and spent Monday night at Monica's parents house. We left there at 3:20 AM for the drive to Tahoe! Monica and I could not sleep in anticipation of the trip, but the funny thing is... it was actually the easiest extended drive I've ever taken. Time flew by. We stopped for coffee in San Luis right as Starbucks was opening, then took another break in Stockton, and then at REI in El Dorado Hills. Arrived in Tahoe by around 1 in the afternoon to find 8 feet of snow in our driveway. Packed snow, so had to have a commercial blower out. But we are set now.
3: Day 1 here we went on an adventure to buy skis. Based upon our trip here in December and a little looking around, we thought that we were looking at $1,000+ to outfit us both with skis. But we were pleasantly surprised to find two different shops with used skis. We're doing basic stuff, so no need for elaborate skis. I now have a grand total of 4 days of skiing in my life under my belt, and Monica is just getting back into it after growing up skiing. Monica got "out the door" with all her ski equipment for $125. That's right: skis, boots, bindings, polls, etc. My skis, bindings, and polls were $75, but because of my size 13 foot, I had to buy new boots. That cost a pretty penny, but I was fit for my boots by Brent, who does the boot fittings for the US Olympic Ski Team. Not bad, and we still came in WELL UNDER budget. It's good for that to happen from time to time! | Tahoe
4: Since we've been here we've had lots more snow come down. Jackson is not so sure about the snow. He puts his hand in it and then cries. Tough call for us as we want him to have mittens on to keep his hands warm, but then he can't suck his thumb! We are enjoying times as a family. No TV here, which is a real blessing. I've set up an office in the upstairs bedroom with a great view of the pines and the snow. It's better than my work area at home! Our evenings consist of playing with Jack and making dinner, sitting by the fire and talking, and reading. I've picked up Silas Marner and Monica is reading A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers.
5: Finding a good sitter to watch Jack while we ski was a challenge, but we finally found someone who is really good and really flexible. Jackson takes a 2-3 hour nap every afternoon, so the plan is to try to leave about 90 minutes before his nap about 3 days a week to ski. That will give us good time on the slopes without us feeling like we are constantly leaving Jack with a sitter. I rise early in the morning to work and try to get about 5 hours in before we leave to ski, and then return to work in the afternoon and evening. And of course that's 7 days a week. | Our Life in Lake Tahoe is adventurous yet also relaxed. Full of lots of margin time to enjoy each other. | Tahoe
6: Talked to a friend on the phone the other day who did not know we were here. He asked, "so are you just taking a vacation." I said, not really a vacation, just a change of scenery. I continue to work and to work hard, we just happen to spend time on the ski slopes instead of overlooking the Pacific.
7: All in all, we couldn't be more happy. The adventure is just beginning! | Most of all, we're having a great time as a family. Jackson is having a great time. He has games he likes to play. One he figured out the other day was grabbing and pulling my nose, but Monica put an end to that game when he finally drew blood. My nose is all cut up! Getting better now. We're also teaching him to avoid the wood burning stove!
8: Sierra at Tahoe has provided great fun for us! Sugar and Spice is a great 2.5 mile fun, beginner run. Upper and Lower Main are a blast. On the upper part you can really cut through the trees The lower part gives you lots of room for speed. A pretty steep drop, but a nice wide trail. We've spent lots of times in the West Bowl. Beaver is great and Powderhorn is a really long and challenging run. The backside of the mountain is great too, although the conditions on Coyote the first time we went down that run were terrible! Ice! Back on the front side, Aspen West opened up new fun for us. Very cool going through that half pipe!
10: We went home for a nap then off to the pool in the afternoon. We had fun together but couldn't wait for daddy to be home. | Jackson and I had some alone time while Clark was in San Francisco on business. We had quite a routine. | He loved playing in the Playplace and seeing Ronald. Then off to KMart for more fun. | We played in the morning at home then at 9:30 went into town for McDonalds. Weather wasn't great. | Clark's Away...Jackson and Mommy Play
13: From Heavenly Village & Driftwood Cafe to home with snowmen and drills...we experienced all of Tahoe! | Our life-saver babysitter...Lyndall
14: Cold and windy, warm and sunny, dry snow and wet snow. Last day was quite melancholy. It was sad to leave, although we were ready to do so. Last day of skiing was Friday. Saturday we went to breakfast at Driftwood Cafe, a favorite spot at Heavenly Village. Also got time in at a park next to the lake, which Jackson loved, in between our packing. Packing was crazy. We had a VERY full car when we left for Tahoe, and we bought ski gear while we were in Tahoe. We shipped some of our more warm weather items to wait for us in Indiana at my parents house, and we left other things at Tahoe, as we were staying in a place owned by Monica's grandfather. Still, you wouldn't believe the way I had tied our stroller bag to the roof of the Hummer. (This in addition to our roof storage box and skis). About 100 miles into Nevada on the 80 East I realized that we had a stroller that was doubling as a kite (that thing was really tied onto the car. It wasn't going to fly off, but it sure did have some air). Pulled over, got out some additional rope, and tied to the front of the car too. Here in Utah staying with our good friend Lee Gientke. Went into Salt Lake today and saw the Mormon Temple and had a couple of beers at a cool local brewery called Squaters. Lee and Monica are now working on some affiliate marketing stuff. Jackson is asleep after lots of fun play today and time in the city. The journey continues. | Onto Utah! | Monica and Jackson and I have moved on from Lake Tahoe. We're in Draper, Utah now, which is half way between Provo and Salt Lake City and in the middle of scores of ski slopes, one of which, Snowbird, which we plan to enjoy on Tuesday. We ended up getting 8 days of skiing in while calling Tahoe our home. No TV for three full weeks was very refreshing. Got a lot of reading, writing and work done, and had just wonderful time as a family. Last two days of skiing were just fantastic. I did my first Black Diamond our next to last day, and did two more our last day. We had all kinds of conditions while on the slopes.
16: Everything we need in life is in our Hummer!
17: Our H3 has been a great car and has provided some fun off roading adventures, but not until the past weeks have we truly realized what a great purchase it was. Driving around in the mountains and in the snow, we've never once doubted the ability of our Hummer to get us through. It's also now our base camp. Just check out some of our pictures on Facebook (you'' see the orange rope that goes over the front of our car to tie down the stroller) and you'll see a massive storage box, skis, and our stroller on the roof of the car. That with ample storage space in the Hummer, and in this vehicle we have just about everything we need. | -Basic clothing for daily use for the three of us -Less than basic clothing like ski and snow clothes, business suits, etc. -Skis, ski boots, and everything that goes with skis -My "mobile office" which includes computers, printer, promotional materials, DVDs, etc. -Emergency survival kit -Lots of rope -Several knives -Gun and ammo -Bikes mounted to the back -"Pack and Play" Bed for Jackson -Blanket for picnics -Frisbee and basketball and an air pump (basketball and bike) -Toys for Jackson -DVD player for Jackson -Various blankets and cushions to prop up Jackson's head while he sleep -We actually have gloves in our glove compartment | Everything we need in life is in our Hummer!
18: For years I've wanted to visit Jackson Hole and there was no better opportunity to do it than this trip. After a few days in Utah where we stayed with our good friend Lee Gientke, we made our way to Jackson Hole on Wednesday. Utah was great. It was good to see Lee and to talk some business and big ideas for years to come. We skied at Snowbird. The conditions were not the legendary Utah Powder we've often heard about, but we still had a lot of fun. And, it was fun for Monica and I to have a third skier along on the runs. Left Utah at 3:30 in the morning, which may sound crazy to many of you, but we have learned this is a wonderful time to travel with Jackson. Most of the drive was actually through Idaho and this drive was beautiful. For about an hour and a half period in Idaho and then into Wyoming, with Jackson sleeping, I don't think Monica and I said anything to one another except, "it's beautiful." We arrived in Jackson Hole around 9 in the morning, just in time for us to find a great local coffee roaster. Walked up and down the streets of historic Jackson a bit and then checked into our hotel, which has the perfect Jackson Hole feel. The scenery here is unbelievable. After being here a few days we're convinced that we have to come back another time of year as well. Today we drove into Teton National Park, which was a beautiful drive, and arrived at the threshold of Yosemite, but didn't go in as the South Entrance is closed during winter months. Next time. | Jackson Hole, Wy.
19: Yesterday was my birthday, and as we were walking around, Monica surprised me with a special birthday gift. I got a really cool knife with a handle that's made out of an elk antler. It will be a great piece to always remember the trip with. Jackson continues to have lots of fun. Today we got in the pool, which is nice and heated. We spent about an hour in the pool without even thinking about it. Jackson is doing his version of swimming between Monica and I, and he loves to climb out of the pool and jump back in to Monica or me. While Jackson is having fun, he's also more determined than ever to have his own way. We're dealing with this in stride. Tomorrow we are going on a sleigh ride into the National Elk Refuge. We're told that we'll see dozens, perhaps hundreds of elk, and that we'll get as close as 10 feet away from some. It should be exciting. It was fun today to pass a road sign that said "Caution" and then had pictures of Elk, Bison, and Bear. Tomorrow afternoon we are leaving for Scottsbluff, Nebraska. This is where Monica's mother was born and lived her earliest years, and we've head many stories of Scottsbluff from Monica's grandfather, a real second hand lion. Monica still has family there and we're going to be staying with them and getting the nickel tour. | Jackson Hole
20: We're going to Jackson
21: We had a wonderful time in Jackson. We enjoyed it so much that before leaving we were already planing our next trip there. But we did discover how taxing three days in a hotel can be when it's 16 degrees outside and you're limited to the confines of your hotel room with your 16 month old! Still, it was a great 3 days!
23: Celebrated Clark's Birthday by buying an elk antler handle knife and got Jackson a Jackson Shirt!
24: Scottsbluff was all about family--past and present. We spent time with Jill & Tony Pleick and then Jim & Penny Krieger in Lincoln while touring old family sites.
25: On the Right with Jill & Tony, TTop at the old Flicker Meat Packing Plant, Center with Jim & Penny, and bottom at the home where Monica's grandparents lived when they were first married and where Monica's mom lived after she was borb.
26: Colorado Springs is a great town. It felt a bit empty as most of the shops were closed for the winter. They had signs up that said be back in June. We had a actual house that we rented here. It was great to have the space. Funky mountain house up a tiny dirt road with a great view. We rode bikes and walked down to town, stopping by all the natural springs. It was cold . but that didn't keep us from visiting the Garden of the Gods.It was spectacular. We did a some business, Clark spoke at a Republican club and World Changers put on a luncheon that didn't exactly pan out. We had to take Jackson to a drop-in day care center, which was so strange. After the luncheon Clark and I got to visit the wonderful Broadmoor Hotel. Had a drink in the lounge and walked around the lake. A few moments to ourselves.
27: Colorado Springs | 11 Cedar Ln
30: Crazy times upon leaving Colorado Springs. Monica drove me to the Denver Airport because I had to fly to an event at the Reagan Library. My flight was into Burbank, but the flight was oversold so they offered a free ticket to anyone who was willing to fly into Santa Barbara instead. Sounded good to me! So I flew into Santa Barbara, had dinner with Monica's family, drove down to the Reagan Library, spent the night back in Goleta, and then flew back to Denver early the next morning. Meanwhile, Monica and Jackson had checked into a hotel in Denver. After a stop at a McDonalds where there was a robbery across the street, they found a better area of town and had a fairly low key evening in Denver before picking me up at the airport to make the drive to Lincoln. In Lincoln we stayed with more family--Jim and Penny Krieger--who we had never met! Jim is a Vice President at The Gallup Poll, so I really enjoyed talking with him over a scotch. They have a 21 month old grandson named Jackson so were well equipped to provide all kinds of fun for our little Jackson. It was a short stop--we got in about 8 in the evening and left the next morning by noon--but it was a relaxing and enjoyable time with new friends! From Lincoln we were onto Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A few things about Cedar Rapids. First, it's a very depressed community. We drove through the Czech Village and downtown, both of which are ghost-towns. The Chamber calls Cedar Rapids the City of 5 Seasons, but we learned that locals and people around the region refer to it as the City of 5 Smells! The good part of Cedar Rapids was staying with our friends Joshua and Marie McNary. They have a little boy named Noah who is 6 months old. I'd worked with Josh at Young America's Foundation, and it was fun to catch up and enjoy a couple of beers together.
31: We left Cedar Rapids at 3:10 in the AM (YIKES!) to drive to Chicago. We had to leave early because I had a seminar I had to be at by 8 a.m. Our timing could not have been more perfect. Got into the city where I stopped for a Starbucks and walked into the seminar about a quarter till 8. Then spent two days with Jerry Panas and the Institute for Charitable Giving talking capital campaigns. We stayed at the Magnificent Mile Marriott. This was the best location I've ever stayed at in Chicago--and the best part is that it was only $99 a night! We spent a lot of time as a family in Millennium Park. Jackson loved The Bean! On Wednesday Night we got a sitter, and for the first time since at least January, Monica and I went out to dinner--just the two of us! We found a new place just around the corner from our hotel called Lawry's (like the seasoning). Excellent! Great prime rib place. Yorkshire pudding and all. Could not have been a better experience. | Our Kind of Town---Chicago Is!!
32: Also close to our hotel was the ESPN Zone. This was a great spot for us with Jackson as they have a huge arcade that Jackson loved. (We did too!) While in Chicago I also drove up to Milwaukee to spend time with the organization Time of Grace. Met with their Vice President early in the morning at a place called Alterra Coffee Roasters. Very best coffee of my life! Time of Grace is a great organization and I look forward to working more with them in the future! We were in Chicago Monday through Friday. It was a great stop, but by the end, we were more than ready to go. We learned from this stop that 2-3 nights is okay for a hotel, but 4 is really stretching it. Jackson did not sleep well at all in Chicago, which means that we did not sleep well. The last night was the worst--evidenced by the fact that Monica was in the lobby with Jackson at 4 in the morning! Last morning in Chicago we went to the Shedd Aquarium. What a cool place! We definitely found another area of Chicago to explore on our next visit there. Jackson loved looking at the fish--until it got closer and closer to nap time. That was just the idea, as we planned to stay in Chicago until nap time to drive to Indiana.
33: We Love Chicago
36: Back home again in Indiana
39: We spent over two weeks in Indiana, which was a welcome respite after our time in Chicago. We love Chicago, but learned that we don't love small hotels rooms, no matter how great the loaction, with Jackson. Our time in Indiana was marked by great time with family, on campus, and a day out in Indy with an overnight at The Columbia Club.
41: Our time in Ireland was marked by cups of tea. We awoke in the morning and had tea. Throughout the day we called on friends and friends call on us and we had tea. At night, we'd sit in the kitchen and have a cup of tea. And when we traveled throughout Ireland we had more tea. All of that tea though made for great conversation as life took on a slower, more Irish pace.
42: Over two week ago now we left Indiana and arrived in Ireland. We flew from Indy to Atlanta for an overnight flight to Dublin. We got Jackson his own seat and brought along his car seat, thinking that all of these things were the winning combination for him to get some sleep while we crossed the Atlantic. Alas, that was not the case. On the seven hour flight to Dublin, Jackson got about 60 minutes of sleep, Monica about 45, and Clark about 30. We arrived in Dublin and Monica's first thought: "we're wrecked." We hired a car though and got to our hotel where the three of us got a good nap. Clark and Jack then went out exploring Dublin while Monica napped some more. We went to bed that night in Dublin at 8 p.m. We were sleeping soundly and then Jackson awoke crying. We had no idea what time it was. Found the iPhone to check the time.... 8 p.m. EST.... ah.... 1 a.m. in Dublin. Jackson is awake like the middle of the day. So is Monica. Clark, well, if they are then he is too. Monica and Jack go to the lobby to play. Friendly desk clerk makes Monica tea. Around 4 a.m. we're all back in bed. Up at 9 the next morning and ready to face the day, and from that point on we're all pretty well adjusted to the time change. We had fun with our limited time in Dublin, walking around, visiting Temple Bar, checking out Trinity College, and generally just soaking in the City. But we were ready to make the voyage to Listowel to catch up with friends.
43: At Home at Listowel Christian Fellowship
44: Made the 4 hour drive to Listowel with a few stops along the way. It was Good Friday which is a Black Day in Ireland, meaning no alcohol sales. Can you believe it? But we had lunch at a great place where the owner treated us like family. Arrived in Listowel and met up with JP and Fidelma Walsh and spent time with the family, then "checked in" to our home here in Listowel, which is actually the church building for Listowel Christian Fellowship. This has been a great place for Jackson. Lots of room to run around, lots of toys, and the ability to let loose! We've called on many friends from Monica's time here when she was working with the church. Hard to believe it has been six years. We've seen many beautiful sites over the past two weeks, but we are both convinced that the best that Ireland has to offer is its people. We've shared many meals and many cups of tea while fellow-shipping with the believers here in Co. Kerry. We celebrated Easter with the church here. A lovely, spirit-filled experience. These people do not play church. After several days in Listowel, we took a long weekend, leaving on a Friday morning and retuning Monday evening to do some adventuring. We drove from Listowel, which is sort of on the Western side of Ireland, to Waterford, which is sort of on the South East Coast. Spent one night in Waterford and then made our way back to the east. Stopped in a lovely town called Dungvarvan, which is a place we certainly want to spend more time in the future.
45: First day in Dublin after doing our best to adjust to the time. Chasing Jack around Trinity College.
46: We took a coastal route from Waterford to Dungvarvan. Beautiful scenery. We got out and did some walking and just taking in the beauty. Stopped at a little beach cove and before I knew it my clothes were on the beach and I was in the ocean. It was cold, but as Andy said, "get busy livin', or get busy dyin." We made our way on Saturday to Blarney where we visited Blarney Castle and the grounds. Lovely. Stayed at a very cool B&B above a local pub. Had dinner at a little place were Monica and I had lunch together six years ago. As we sat at dinner, we noticed the painting over our table, a streetview of Blarney was for sale. We bought it. Perfect way to remember one of the most perfect days of our lives. We had started in Waterford and made the drive along beautiful terrain. Playing on the beach and in the ocean. Stopping in Dungvarvan for lunch. Walking the beautiful gardens of Blarney Castle. Jackson was tons of fun to be with. He was well-behaved all day and seemd to love the adventuring as much as we did. Great Irish Dinner. Life, could have hardly been better. Monica took a break while I hung out with Jackson and put him to bed. She came back to retire for the night, then I went to hit the pubs. Sat and had a beer with an old local whose Irish accent was so thick I had to strain to understand every word. Sat with a woman at another place who was originally from Blarney and now lives in England (she told me this was because of her sins).
47: There's something about Ireland that makes living fun. The way you go through the little towns instead of by them on freeways. We stopped at a little place for lunch on the way from Dublin to Listowel on Good Friday where we were treated like family.
48: She was an older woman, and each time she referenced someone who is now deceased (which was actually quite often), shed' pause and say, "God rest their soul." Sunday morning we went to church at Calvary Chapel Cork. Another lovely little fellowship of believers. We talked with many of the good people there and realized we shared common friends. Also made new friends. Then met our friend Phil Walsh in Cork for lunch. Phil was wrecked after attending two weddings in two days, the first of which he was the best man in. Great roof top lunch stop. The Phil took us to Kinsale. Another place we must spend more time in the future. Walked along the ruins of an old sea side fort built in the 1600's and then had a Murphy's looking out at the water. That afternoon drove to Bantry, Ireland to spend the evening with another of Monica's friends here named Sinead. She was a great hostess and we enjoyed an evening of conversation with her. But upon arriving in Bantry the starter on our car went out. We've been driving a car that belongs to the church here. An old, beat up yet perfect car. Several phone calls later, we realized half of the Christian church in Ireland knew of our predicament, and just about all within 50 kilometers of Bantry were ready to come to our aid!
50: But the next morning we began the fun of the push start. Yes, dropping the clutch. From Bantry on, we chose our parking spots carefully because with the starter out on the car, Monica sits ready to drive while I push the car. Once we have some speed, she let's off the clutch and gives it some gas. What you don't want to do is stall going up hill or park with the car going up hill. We did the whole Ring of Kerry on Monday with the push start method. Beautiful scenery. Malibu has nothing on Kerry for beautiful scenery. Stopped in at some beach coves. Ate chocolate at a chocolate factory, went off the beaten path and founds lakes and streams and all kinds of good fun. It was a great day and we returned "home" that night in Listowel very happy to be home. Are spending these last few days here now relaxing, taking in the local sites at the river walk and the beach at Ballybunion, and calling on friends. Last night visited the John B. Keane Pub and found ourselves in a conversation with the son of John B, Billy. John B. is a famous Irish author. I've been reading some of his writing, including his famous play "The Field" while here. I asked Billy if I could get a copy of his own book, "The Last of the Heroes" there. Billy said, "it's actually not a book. It's a masterpiece." We left with an inscribed copy.
51: The River Walk
52: Thursday morning we are leaving Listowel to head to stay with some friends just outside of Dublin. By friends, I mean people we just met last Sunday and within two minutes of talking they'd invited us to stay with them. They're believers and they have a little one too, so should be fun. Also gets us close to Dublin, were we fly out on Saturday around noon. Actually before heading to Dublin we must stop in Shannon to pick up a rental car that we'll return in Dublin. More friends to see in Shannon. Yes, you see, it is the people who make Ireland Ireland. Forgot to mention that in Kinsale we were even invited in to have tea by someone who we had just stopped to ask directions from. It's been a lovely trip. Mentally and physically refreshing, and spiritually too.
54: B | E | A | C | H
55: At home and being with friends.
56: The Pub
66: Our day that ended at Blarney Castle was one of those magical days that you never forget. We did what feels right in Ireland, which is to take life as it comes at you. We left Waterford that morning and our leisurly drive ended with an afternoon in a beautiful place and then a great family style dinner.
69: Ireland is a world away. There is more than a vast ocean to cross. You have to change the way you look at life and each day. Our time there was so very special. We look forward to our next trip!
70: A stop in sunny, sun-kissed Santa Barbara!
71: Clark originally thought he needed to come to California for a client so booked his flights.. Then those meetings never played out, so it turned into a trip to hold the first meetings for The Vandeventer Group...and also fun in the sun!
72: Our stopover in California would not be complete without... Disneyland
73: It was great to be back in California--to see family and friends, and to enjoy some of the things we enjoy most about home. Monica's mom drove us to Burbank with a stop in Glendale where we learned for the first time that we were having a girl! It was a long day of travel. We were delayed in Denver for several hours and landed in Indy well after midnight and still had to drive to Louisville. We crashed around 4 in the morning and slept most of the next day. Our bodies had some adjusting to do after being in Ireland, then Indiana for 3 days, then California for a week, and then a crazy day of travel back to EST.
74: Headlee Farm House, Louisville KY
76: Louisville was sort of an unexpected high point of the trip. Sure, we were happy to be going, but we never expected to enjoy it as we did. Perhaps it was because we had been on the go so much and in Louisville life took on a slower place. But we think there was more. The farm was great and as far as we're concerned, Louisville is one of America's finest cities.
77: Bicycles were are main form of transportation when we did venture off the farm and into the City. The riverfront park was 1st Class and we even got free tickets to a Louisville Bats game!
78: Jim & Jenny Headlee call their farm "Fresh Wind." We felt a fresh wind blowing while we were there. At night we'd often sit and watch the Discover Channel Series "Planet Earth." By day we were enjoying God's creation, including tales of those magnificent animals at storied Churchill Downs. There were plenty more animals at the zoo, and even a family of hedgehogs on the farm! | Churchill Downs
79: Petting Zoo
83: For a week, this was home. We were a family in Louisville. We rode bikes, shared meals, played in the park, and even celebrated Mothers Day. It was a great stop along the trail.